A bridge between oceans: Overland migration of marine birds in a wind energy corridor

Lamb, Juliet; Newstead, David; Koczur, Lianne; Ballard, Bart; Green, Clay; Jodice, Patrick

2 October 2017

Located at the shortest overland route between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean, Mexico’s Tehuantepec Isthmus is a globally important migratory corridor for many terrestrial bird species. The Pacific coast of the Isthmus also contains a significant wetland complex that supports large multi-species aggregations of non-breeding waterbirds during the boreal winter. In recent years, extensive wind energy development has occurred in the plains bordering these wetlands, directly along the migratory flyway. Using recent studies of movement patterns of three marine-associated bird species—reddish egrets (Egretta rufescens), brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis), and red knots (Calidris canutus)—from the northern Gulf of Mexico, we assess use of the isthmus as a migratory corridor. Our data provide evidence that marine birds from the Gulf region regularly overwinter along the Pacific coast of Mexico and use the isthmus as a migratory corridor, creating the potential for interaction with terrestrial wind farms during non-breeding. This study is the first to describe migration by marine-associated bird species between the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific coast. These data contribute new information toward ongoing efforts to understand the complex migration patterns of mobile marine species, with the goal of informing integrated conservation efforts for species whose year-round habitat needs cross ecoregional and geopolitical boundaries.